South Korean President Moon Jae-in (front row, left) and his wife Kim Jung-sook (front row, right) cheer during a ceremony to mark the March First Independence Movement Day, the anniversary of the 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule in Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2021. (JEWON HEON-KYUN / POOL VIA AP)
SEOUL – South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday his government was ready to talk with Japan amid the frayed ties between Seoul and Tokyo over historical and trade issues.
“Our government is ready to sit down and have talks with the Japanese government at any time,” Moon said in his nationally televised speech to mark the 102nd anniversary of the independence movement on March 1, 1919 that took place during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
I am confident that if we put our heads together in the spirit of trying to understand each other’s perspectives, we will be able to wisely resolve issues of the past.
Moon Jae-in, South Korean president
“I am confident that if we put our heads together in the spirit of trying to understand each other’s perspectives, we will be able to wisely resolve issues of the past,” Moon said.
The Seoul-Tokyo relations have been frosty for the past decade over trade dispute and historical issues, such as Japan’s military sexual slavery and the forced labor issue before and during World War II.
Earlier this year, a South Korean court ordered the Japanese government to pay damages to South Korean victims who were forced into sex slavery for the Imperial Japan’s military brothels during World War II, but Japan lodged a protest over the court ruling, citing the sovereign immunity that allows a state to be immune from civil suit in foreign courts.
The Seoul court ruled that the immunity cannot be applied to the case as the wartime atrocities were crimes against humanity that were committed deliberately, systematically and widely by Japan.
Japan claimed that the 1965 treaty, which normalized diplomatic ties between Seoul and Tokyo, resolved all colonial-era issues, but South Korea said the individual right to damages had yet to be resolved.
“We should learn a lesson by squarely facing up to the past. It is by no means shameful to learn a lesson from past wrongs, but it is rather a way to gain respect form the international community,” Moon said.
Moon said his government will always pursue wise solutions based on a victim-centered approach, pledging to do everything possible to restore the honor and dignity of victims.
The South Korean leader said his government would concentrate more energy on future-oriented development while resolving issues of the past “separately”, reiterating the two-track approach to historical issues.